DV-16-06 Developing a genetic toolkit to detect spawning events of giant sea scallops

Richard Wahle
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine

Skylar Bayer
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine

Peter Countway
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences


The giant sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) is an incredibly valuable seafood species harvested in the Gulf of Maine. The scallop is a “free-spawning” species, releasing gametes into the water column. Monitoring spawning events would inform predictions of future scallop stocks, however detecting such events in real time is extremely difficult. It is nearly impossible to visually distinguish scallop gametes from other bivalve gametes.

Researchers are developing a technique to measure gamete concentrations of giant sea scallops in the water column using quantitative genetics. This technique will allow scallop spawning events to be monitored along the coast of Maine in a rapid, direct, and highly sensitive manner. Identifying gamete abundance and release frequency during a spawning season may help indicate productive versus unproductive populations and could be related to other environmental variables that could affect the quality of local Maine seafood.